As I dedicate more and more of my creative energy to thinking about ways that schools could be different places, my mind keeps coming back to some of the basic assumptions that we make about learning, not so much about teaching, but learning.
One of the stubborn assumptions which has been a part of the school experience right from the start (even in the days of one room schoolhouses) is the idea that there is value in separating kids according to their date-of-birth. As Sir Ken Robinson muses, “Why is there this assumption that the most important things kids have in common is how old they are?”
Think about it for a minute. Teachers will tell you that classrooms are not monolithic environments where learners are all at the same level, just because they happen to be six or seven. Yet, that is how we organize our schools, and that is how we treat our children.
So, in a sense we set kids up for failure right from the beginning. If they don’t acquire this particular information, in this particular grade, they are considered “behind” or “at risk”. It’s a strange view of development, certainly one that doesn’t stand the test of modern psychological science.
I don’t disagree that there likely exists a trajectory of social, intellectual and emotional development. But the rate at which we pass through the various stages along the way can’t be determined or predicted in single year increments.
Yet we organize our schools as if this were the case. In an age where information flows quickly and in ways that the architects of our modern school systems could never have imagined, it is time to for us to take a look at this basic assumption.
Now the key is to think of creative alternatives to the current model and the question becomes, What are some of the other ways that students could be organized?
If we’re serious about all learners “making the grade”, there may be some room for conversation on this point.
Perhaps you’ve already done some thinking about this. Care to share?